It was just last week when I wrote an article that praised Russell Martin‘s defensive ability, but yesterday Kevin Kennedy and Jim Duquette of Sirius/XM radio accused Martin of tipping his pitches.
Here is what they said (via Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York):
Duquette: “Russell Martin, how this has gone on all year I’ll never know. But it hasn’t really been picked up all that much and really hasn’t hurt them seemingly right now. I’ll be curious if it will hurt them against some of the better teams or in the postseason. You’re watching David Robertson pumping fastballs against Adam Jones late in the game, an important at-bat, the Orioles are down a run. Here comes a breaking ball and Russell Martin is, Kev, what did you text me?”
Kennedy: “He had his tail up high, and early. I texted you that I’m calling every pitch about 3 seconds, 5 seconds before it is released.”
Duquette: “As a hitter you can’t really see it but you can certainly be signaled. As a right handed hitter the first base coach could signal something to you, or if there is a runner on base, you’re down there at second base, you don’t even need to know the signs.”
Kennedy: “Was it [Nick] Markakis who stole second on the curveball? It made me wonder if he saw, I mean, the situation dictated a curve, that could be one thing, but also you could see that Russ had his tail up higher. Clearly his tail was really low whE. Robertson was throwing his fastball. And he threw a bunch of fastballs in a row. The situation with Adam Jones up dictated a curve ball, two strikes, even [broadcaster] Jim Palmer said that, you gotta believe he’s going to throw a curve here. And so Markakis steals second and, sure enough, a couple of beats before Robertson starts his delivery Martin sets up early and you could see his tail up. And I’m saying curveball. So what I’m saying is, coaches can see that, the first base coach can see that, the third base coach can see that. There are ways to relay that to the hitter whether you just yell his name or say, ‘Come on, Adam,’ or whatever. There’s all different kinds of ways you can relay that, if that’s what you’re into. Some teams aren’t into it. But I’m just telling you if you were my catcher and I’m going to the postseason and let’s say I play against the Red Sox, I don’t want my catcher telegraphing pitches. Because there’s going to be a couple players that are smart and will get it, there’s going to be a couple coaches that are smart that will get it. I guarantee there are coaches out there listening to us right now that see the same thing we’re talking about. I guarantee it is in somebody’s report, guarantee it.”
Here is Martin’s retort (via George King of the NY Post):
“I rarely set up early. It might happen occasionally depending on the pitcher because some guys want me to set up early with guys on base,” Martin said. “A.J. [Burnett] wants an early target but it’s something I look out for because it’s one of the things they teach you, don’t set up early.”
I haven’t noticed it, but not being a scout things generally have to stand out or I have to be specifically looking for them to notice something like this. So it’s hard to say if their accusation is correct. We can check for it now, but now that it has been called to his attention there is a very good chance that he’ll correct it.
This is a good example of why we as fans generally can’t accurately judge just how good a catcher is, it’s such a subtle position. We can see if a guy is obviously good or obviously bad, but in the middle it is hard to judge. It’s why I laugh when fans who have seen Jesus Montero in one or two spring training games try to say whether or not he’s a good or bad catcher. There is a lot to the position – blocking balls, throwing out runners, calling a game, creating a repertoire with the pitchers, not letting him tip his pitches, not tipping their pitches, and even more.